Tag Archives: employment

RTC:Rural developing self-employment training module for VR counselors and consumers

RTC:Rural and our partners have been working for a number of years to promote self-employment among people with disabilities in the vocational rehabilitation system, as it is an option that addresses some of the barriers to employment of living in a rural community.

Starting in 2015, in partnership with the Utah State Office of Rehabilitation (USOR) and other stakeholders, RTC:Rural researchers developed a self-employment manual, along with policies and procedures to help Utah vocational rehabilitation (VR) counselors become better prepared to guide consumers through the self-employment process.

RTC:Rural is currently working to adapt the USOR manual into an online module, incorporating direct feedback from stakeholders to make the material more applicable and accessible to a wider audience, including consumers themselves. Dr. Catherine Ipsen, Associate Director for the Rural Institute for Inclusive Communities and the Director of Employment Research at RTC:Rural, is leading the project.

Previous research by RTC:Rural has shown that self-employment is a viable option for many people with disabilities, but is an underutilized option within the VR system. Reasons for this vary, but include VR counselors feeling ill equipped to help consumers determine if business ideas are feasible, and concerns over case costs, business failure, and income potential. The self-employment module aims to alleviate some of those concerns and provide VR counselors with the tools they need to help consumers achieve successful employment outcomes. Continue reading

Six charts that illustrate the divide between rural and urban America

RTC:Rural is proud that our researchers were invited to contribute to this article, which was published in The Conversation on March 17, 2017, and subsequently on PBS News, US News & World Report, and Salon.


Authors: Brian Thiede, Pennsylvania State University; Lillie Greiman, The University of Montana; Stephan Weiler, Colorado State University; Steven C. Beda, University of Oregon, and Tessa Conroy, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Editor’s note: We’ve all heard of the great divide between life in rural and urban America. But what are the factors that contribute to these differences? We asked sociologists, economists, geographers and historians to describe the divide from different angles. The data paint a richer and sometimes surprising picture of the U.S. today. The Conversation

1. Poverty is higher in rural areas

Discussions of poverty in the United States often mistakenly focus on urban areas. While urban poverty is a unique challenge, rates of poverty have historically been higher in rural than urban areas. In fact, levels of rural poverty were often double those in urban areas throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

While these rural-urban gaps have diminished markedly, substantial differences persist. In 2015, 16.7 percent of the rural population was poor, compared with 13.0 percent of the urban population overall – and 10.8 percent among those living in suburban areas outside of principal cities.

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At AUCD 2016, RTC:Rural presented research to help inform VR service delivery for people with disabilities

Catherine Ipsen, Ph.D., Director of Employment Research at RTC:Rural and Associate Director of the Rural Institute on Inclusive Communities (RIIC) recently returned from the 2016 Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) conference in Washington DC. At the conference, Ipsen delivered a poster presentation to approximately 40 attendees, titled “Factors Associated with Premature Exit from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services.”

Catherine Ipsen presenting her poster "Factors Associated with Premature Exit from Vocational Rehabilitation Services" at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) 2016 conference in Washington DC.

Catherine Ipsen presenting her poster “Factors Associated with Premature Exit from Vocational Rehabilitation Services” at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) 2016 conference in Washington DC.

The conference, “Navigating Change: Building our Future Together,” focused on strong collaborations across programs and political parties to build a future where people with disabilities are able to participate fully in all aspects of life.

The presentation focused on understanding the reasons VR consumers drop out of the VR program before completing services. Ipsen & Goe (2015) tracked 355 consumers as they progressed through VR services. Over the 18-month study period, approximately one third of consumers left because they met their goals, a third left for personal reasons (such as their health or family issues), and a third left because they were dissatisfied with services.

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Telecom Toolbox supports Disability Employment Awareness Month

Telecom Tololbox logoIn celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we are showcasing the Telecom Toolbox, a website and blog dedicated to career development using social media and online methods. Man with infantile cerebral palsy using a computer.The Telecom Toolbox is a product of RTC:Rural research about Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) professional’s use of social media. While the internet has become the primary resource for job seekers and employers, VR agencies are not fully utilizing current job seeking methods.  In fact, research shows that online career development practices are partially limited in VR due to counselor unpreparedness to use social media.

To address this barrier, the Telecom Toolbox includes specific ideas for how consumers and counselors can use online tools and social media platforms in a job search process. These include strategies to: Continue reading

Social media tips added to career development tool

Telecom Toolbox logo with multi-colored icon bubbles emerging from a toolbox.We recently expanded the Telecom Toolbox to include social media strategies for job seeking. The revamped Toolbox includes sections on online communication, online career development, and ethics.

The Communication section provides tips for using email, text messaging, and video to improve consumer / VR counselor communication.  Research shows frequent contact with consumers improves VR outcomes (Ipsen & Goe, 2016) and online methods provide additional avenues for this communication to take place.

Building an online presence can be overwhelming, but having positive search results is increasingly important when searching for a job. The Online Career Development section covers a variety strategies for using different social media platforms during the job search process. For instance, LinkedIn can be used to showcase professional accomplishments, network with colleagues, blog content related to your field and even apply for a job.  The first step to use LinkedIn effectively is creating an appealing profile. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can help create an online identity as well.  For example, if you were a landscaper, you could use Instagram to share before and after pictures of a yard you landscaped which illustrates “proof of performance”.  Twitter can be used to network and ask questions of industry leaders, while Facebook can be used to cast a wide net for leads when searching for a job.  The section also includes strategies for managing “digital dirt”, effectively utilizing job boards, researching employers, keyword optimization and researching employers are explored as well.

As social media becomes pervasive, so does examples of missteps.  There are many things to consider when consumers, counselors and VR agencies use social media and the Ethics section of the Telecom Toolbox helps navigate this brave new world.

We are excited about the changes in the Telecom Toolbox and look forward to updating the website as social media use continues to grow and evolve.